Issues of Life Archive 121-130

Issues of Life #121

Life at the Next Level #31

 

“But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.”

 2 Peter 1:5-8

 

    Brotherly kindness is another component of spiritual character that is vitally important. The Bible says that, “by this shall they know you, that you have love for one another.” We have a responsibility to love one another and we need His help to get it done. Brotherly kindness is a family thing! We must stop using the terms, brother and sister, if we are not going to actually relate to one another that way. For example, we call someone ‘brother’, but when we get crossways with him over an issue, we are quick to break the relationship and move on to another. Is that what brotherly kindness is all about? Brotherly kindness requires us to place the same value on the relationship that God has put on it. If we make the relationship the most important thing, we will make it through the problems. If we make the problem more important than the relationship……the relationship is in severe danger and sure to dissolve in a matter of time.

    Brotherly kindness is worked out in the arena of family and genuine Christian community. It is challenging because in the reality of committing to relationship we find that there are problems involved. There are personality conflicts. There is selfishness and every other thing to deal with when we are relating to other people. Brotherly kindness speaks of our desire to make others more important than ourselves and to produce actions that match that desire. That is something that doesn’t just happen naturally. It must be worked for and we must be in cooperation with the Holy Spirit to see it actually come to pass. The character trait of brotherly kindness proves to the world that we actually do love one another. How are you doing in your quest for brotherly kindness? The world is watching!


 

Issues of Life #122

Life at the Next Level #32

Spiritual Growth – The Word

 

“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever." Is. 40:8

 

    When considering spiritual growth one cannot ignore the importance of the Word of God. In the very beginning God spoke the world into being. And by His Word, the world as we now know it, will end. By His Word the Universe is held in place. The stars, the Sun and the planets take their orders from the Lord Most High! What He says, goes!

    The Word of God is two-fold; what He has said, and what He is saying. What He has said has been recorded in the Scriptures. It’s important that we understand that there is no more written revelation of what God has said. Therefore, we need to place the value on the written Word of God based on that reality. We must honor what God has said. We must be students of His Word, not to just store up Scriptural knowledge but to clearly understand what He has said on every issue that He addressed.

    Our nation has had more liberty than any other nation on the planet to pursue the things of God. Many nations are not ‘gospel friendly’, to say the least. In many countries Christian believers are killed for the expression of their faith. We have it good in that respect, we are blessed and we should appreciate that and take full advantage of it.

    If we are going to pursue spiritual growth we must get in the Word. American Christianity is populated with millions of sincere believers. But, just as it was in the Biblical letter to the Hebrews, “by now you should be teachers, but you still need someone to teach you.” The writer of Hebrews gives a strong admonition to “grow up”. We should do the same. We should not take God’s written Word for granted. Growing spiritually requires that we read or hear His Word, apply it to our lives by faith, and continue on in the pursuit of true maturity.

    Start somewhere! Read a verse in Proverbs, read a chapter in the Psalms daily, begin a systematic reading of the New Testament, or the whole Bible. Don’t just stand there…..do something!


 

Issues of Life #123

Life at the Next Level #33

Spiritual Growth – Fasting

 

“When you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast , anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” Matt 6:16-18

 

    Fasting for spiritual purposes has become a neglected discipline in American church culture. When Jesus stated the above instructions about fasting it is interesting that He said, “When you fast” and not “if you fast”. For the born again believer the question is not if we should do it but when we should do it. Just the thought of fasting sends most believers packing the other way. No one really wants to talk about it. But when we look at the benefits of this spiritual discipline and when we see the emphasis that Jesus, Himself, placed on fasting it definitely warrants another serious look.

    The essence of fasting is that it involves denying the flesh. Denying the flesh is one of the great challenges of the ‘new life’. We are spiritual beings and in the pursuit of the true spiritual life we learn in the Word that we are not to cater to our fleshly desires but to keep them in suppression as the Spirit leads. Fasting is a direct, voluntary approach to denying and suppressing the flesh.

    There are many Biblical references to fasting that the serious follower of God should investigate. It would be of great help to those who are considering a fast to learn some of the benefits, both physical and spiritual, that fasting brings. The spiritual benefits of fasting are many. Fasting, 1) breaks the yoke of sin, sickness and spiritual oppression 2) perfects faith 3) maximizes the spirit and minimizes the flesh 4) Intensifies prayer 5) Deals with and removes unbelief 6) Enlarges your capacity for the spiritual 7) Brings adversity into perspective.

    These are only a few of the many spiritual benefits brought about by fasting. Next segment we will look at some of the physical benefits.


 

Issues of Life #124

Life at the Next Level #34

Spiritual Growth – Fasting – Physical Benefits

 

“When you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast , anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” Matt 6:16-18

 

            Fasting for spiritual purposes is found throughout the entire bible, new testament and old. The discipline of fasting has been, for the most part, ignored in Christian circles in our generation. But the importance of it and the benefits of it, both spiritual and physical, cannot be ignored by the serious follower of God. We really should take a closer look! In the previous segment a few of the spiritual benefits were discussed. Let us now look at some of the physical benefits. Fasting 1) Purifies the bloodstream 2) Improves circulation 3) Rests the heart 4) Conserves energy 5) Removes the cause of many diseases 6) purifies the skin 7) Restores natural, normal appetite 8) Draws intestinal tract to normal 9) Restores physical strength, energy and stamina 10) Rids body of filth and toxins 11) Removes excessive weight 12) Gives overworked stomach a rest 13) Improves all senses; sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell 14) Prolongs life

            The human body is a remarkable organism to say the least. Our cultural lifestyle and excessive eating habits eventually take a toll on our body. Fasting on a regular basis can be a very effective component in offsetting the negative effects of our excessive lifestyle.

            On the spiritual side as well as the physical side, we are able to do more and be much more effective in our life’s work when we feel better. Fasting is a sure way to remedy feeling lazy and apathetic. If we’re serious about our walk with the Lord, fasting is definitely something that requires our attention.


 

Issues of Life #125

Life at the Next Level #35

Spiritual Growth – Fasting

 

“When you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast , anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” Matt 6:16-18

 

    In the above verses, Jesus gave strategic instructions on the subject of fasting. It was understood by His disciples that fasting was indeed a valuable discipline which brought with it many spiritual and physical benefits. It is interesting that Jesus instructed the twelve to “not” engage in fasting as did their very strict religious counterparts, the Pharisees. Jesus’ instructions were given in regard to the ‘heart’ attitude that one should display when fasting. It was obvious, at least to Jesus, that the Pharisees were doing their religious duty of fasting with the wrong heart attitude. The Pharisees were famous for doing nearly everything that they did for the sole purpose to ‘be seen’. When fasting they wanted everyone else to observe how holy they were, or at least how holy they thought they were. It was all for show; all about how they looked. Jesus declared that in doing so, with the wrong heart attitude, that ‘they had their reward’. Their reward was simply to be noticed by others. But Jesus encouraged His followers in another place to “lay up for themselves treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy”. So when we fast, our heart attitude is the indicator of whether or not we will receive the blessings of God.

    When we fast we are to engage with the correct heart attitude. We should discern or, rightly judge, our own heart. We should be honest with our own self. That can be a fairly monumental challenge for all of us. When we fast, we should do it ‘unto’ the Lord. We should not make a show of it. We should be sincere and sober in our hearts and in our minds. We can then expect the ‘full’ blessing of the Father on our efforts to fast, both spiritually and physically.


 

Issues of Life #126

Life at the Next Level #36

Spiritual Growth – Fasting – Practical Helps

 

“When you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast , anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” Matt 6:16-18

 

    There are some practical helps that I have learned over the years that have proven to be valuable to me on the issue of fasting. When a person begins to see the benefits of fasting and is convicted of his/her need to engage in a fast, I always encourage them to start modest. For someone who has never fasted before I would suggest a ‘one day’ fast. A one day fast gives an individual a do-able way to get an idea of what fasting is really all about and it sets the tone for possible lengthier fasts in the future. The fast could start either at daybreak or at sundown with the fast lasting until that same time the next day. Those with significant medical conditions such as blood sugar problems, etc., should check with their family physician before starting a fast. Water intake is very important when fasting. Purified water is most preferred and drinking 8-12 glasses a day is the ideal amount. The water serves to flush our system that has been overloaded with toxins and preservatives. The feelings of hunger will be significant on a one day fast. In fact, your mind will be telling you that you are starving to death. This is normal and the essence of what a fast is really all about, denying the flesh. Oh, and incidentally, you are not going to starve to death on a one day fast!

    Fasting and prayer go hand in hand. We should be mindful when starting a fast that prayer is a priority. If you are not careful you will be so busy that you don’t take ample time to pray. If we are fasting for spiritual purposes we should not make this mistake. It may be helpful to list the things that you are fasting for. In other words, what are the things that you really need to hear from the Lord? On a one day fast you need to be reminded by the Holy Spirit to engage in productive prayer. Fasting without prayer may bring some physical benefits but the spiritual benefits will be severely limited. Fast and pray for the most dramatic results!


 

Issues of Life #127

Life at the Next Level #37

Spiritual Growth – Fasting – Practical Helps

 

“When you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast , anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” Matt 6:16-18

 

To achieve the greatest benefits from fasting there are a few practical helps that prove very valuable. As has been stated before water intake is vitally important. I don’t think that you can drink too much water but I know that you can drink too little. So be sure to drink at least 8 or 10 glasses of water daily during a fast. In fact drinking that much water when not on a fast is also a very healthy practice.

After one completes a one day fast, lengthier fasts should be considered. The next natural step is to engage in a three day, water only, fast. On a three day fast there are some significant differences noticed from the one day fast. On a one day fast hunger pangs are very noticeable. On a three day fast they are downright intimidating! Remember, the essence of fasting is to deny the flesh and this is where the rubber meets the road. The hunger pangs are very normal and they are not nearly as serious as they feel. It’s the normal process of breaking the food addiction. Addictions to coffee, sugar and such are being broken. It is also very normal to experience headaches on the second and third day of the fast; more addictions being broken! Bad breath is also a by-product of the normal fasting process. It is the evidence of toxins being eliminated from the body.

All this may sound too uncomfortable to someone but the spiritual and physical benefits of fasting far outweigh the discomfort. Some will never engage because they ignore the importance; some will not fast because of the discomfort involved. But incredible blessings await those who press on through!


 

Issues of Life #128

Life at the Next Level #38

Spiritual Growth – Fasting – Practical Helps

 

“When you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast , anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” Matt 6:16-18

 

            There are so many benefits to fasting it would be futile to try to list them all. But those who are serious about their walk in the Lord should consider fasting as a regular discipline and the benefits will definitely come. There are manifold spiritual benefits as well as physical benefits. In considering a fast beyond three days, one might consider a five day, seven day, twenty-one day or a forty day fast. I have earlier suggested that one would start fasting modestly. In other words don’t start with a longer, extended fast but start with a one day fast or a three day fast. My belief is that when a person commits at this level the benefits will be obvious enough that he/she will consider maybe going on a longer fast later.

            Preparing for the fast is an important time indeed. Spiritual preparation would include assessing just what the fast is for. What are the things that you will be petitioning God for? What are the issues that need to be resolved? What are the things that you believe God wants to do in you? These and other issues need to be considered so that the time engaged in the actual fast will be time well spent.

            Physical preparation is also an important issue to consider. It is definitely a work of the flesh to gorge ones self with food the day or the night before the fast starts. It may make sense to the flesh but it is not a wise or mature way to begin a fast for spiritual purposes. One should be sensible about eating the day before a fast and drink plenty of water. On an extended fast (three days or longer), preparation should include asking for the Holy Spirit’s help to finish what has begun. If the fast is going to be profitable we’ll need His help. Preparation is very important to ensure that the fast accomplishes what you and the Lord desire to happen.


 

Issues of Life #129

Life at the Next Level #39

Spiritual Growth – Fasting – Practical Helps

 

“When you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast , anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” Matt 6:16-18

 

    By now you have probably decided one way or the other. Either you are thinking about a fast in the near future or else you have gone the way of most of the Christian community in our generation and declined to agree with its Biblical importance. For the serious followers of God who have already committed or are about to, there are a few other things to consider if we are to make the best of the time spent on the fast.

    We have discussed the importance of fasting and prayer. Do not miss the primary reason for fasting because of your busy schedule. Arrange for plenty of personal prayer time and you won’t be sorry. I think that it is also important to chronicle the things that you are hearing from the Lord. Get in the habit of writing down what God is saying to you. Journaling is a very important habit to start. Journaling is simply recording the thoughts that you are having as well as the revelatory things that God prophetically speaks to your spirit.

    Don’t have your mind made up as to how or when the Lord is supposed to speak to you. There have been times that I have been on a fast and didn’t hear a lot from the Lord. Still other times there has been a steady flow of information from Him. It’s His business as to how and when He speaks to us. Fasting places us in position to hear Him better. It is a great way to clear our mind from the clutter that normally vies for our attention. Fasting from food diverts attention from ourselves and places that attention on the Lord and what He wants to do in our lives.

    My prayer for you is that you have made a choice to commit to a fast in the near future. You will find that your relationship with the Father has moved to a deeper, more intimate level.


 

Issues of Life #130

Life at the Next Level #40

Spiritual Growth – Solitude

 

“For though by this time you ought to be teachers , you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.”  Heb 5:12-13

 

    God is speaking to His Body, worldwide, I believe. And He is serious about you and I committing to spiritual growth. It is not enough to just attend church. Now, don’t get me wrong, it is important to show up and be a part of what the Lord is doing in the family of God. It is important that you gravitate to that spiritual family which God has ordained for you to be a part of. We should not, as the bible says, “forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some.” But church attendance is just part of what God would have us to do if we’re to redeem our time on the planet and fulfill His plan for our lives.

    Much of the Body of Christ is just cruising along on auto-pilot and not in a genuine, focused attempt to really grow and mature in the things of the Lord. As we move from one level spiritually to another, spiritual growth becomes increasingly more important. God wants us to move on through the ‘child’ stage to spiritual adulthood. He wants to transform us into mature and responsible believers who He can trust with the mysteries and the power of His kingdom.

    There are many areas to consider when talking about spiritual growth. One of those essential elements is the issue of solitude. Solitude takes on the meaning of being alone with God. It also alludes toward quietness and reflection on the things of God. Meditation is another piece of the solitude puzzle and as we learn to meditate on the Word of God, His Word becomes life in us; it becomes a part of us. All these things are obviously part of what solitude means but I believe that solitude takes on a whole new dimension when we are genuinely committed to the plan and purpose of God for our lives. I am learning that God wants to separate me unto Himself; that He wants my relationship with Him to be deeper and more intimate than I can readily understand. He’s drawing us away into a depth of fellowship that we have not yet experienced. To submit to it is to never be the same again! Solitude is a key.

 

 

 

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